The Comedy King (And I)

At the time, holiday snaps came in multiples of twelve. They rarely exceeded thirty-six per camera. Inevitably, the context in which each photograph was taken got captured along with the point-and-click, as if one’s brain also took a snapshot.

We see here a picture of a man and a young person-thing obscuring a cartoon giraffe. It was taken at a place that had ‘ys r us’ in its name. The background had candy stripes, the floor was marble. Behind our two subjects, a yaya attended to a pram.

I remember the context quite well, being the young person-thing in the foreground. This was taken in Hong Kong in 1991 (March 28, says the date), in front of the Toys R Us in Ocean Terminal. The man with me is, of course, Dolphy, our own King of Comedy. The yaya could be there because of Dolphy and ZsaZsa’s newly adopted baby. For all I care, though, she really only photobombed this picture.

Outside the photo, ZsaZsa sat waiting on stairs. At the time, both she and Dolphy were under a lot of bad press, and I suppose the Hong Kong trip was their way of letting things cool down. I remember that they both wore white.

Not fifteen minutes earlier, my dad pointed out Dolphy to me inside Toys R Us. The man himself was shopping for toys on his own, an activity he wouldn’t have enjoyed in the Philippines with such privacy (something I would ruin in a bit, don’t worry). Dolphy didn’t look larger than life to me – he looked shinier. He had his own atmosphere that he almost appeared unreal. He glowed (well, he was wearing white – and check out those shoes). The toys he bought, by the way, were similar to the ones that I myself got that day. They weren’t of the fancier nor the pricier sort – kids don’t really pay attention to that, after all, do they?

We paid for our stuff and found ZsaZsa outside on the stairs. If it were Manila, we wouldn’t have bothered her at all (we wouldn’t have been able to, for one). I asked if she was keen on a photo and she nicely told me to wait for ‘Tito Dolphy’. (I realized later that she didn’t want to be seen so openly in public with him, especially since she was already pregnant with Zia). When he came out of Toys R Us, Dolphy suggested that we move to a spot that would photograph better. He would know, of course. Left to our own devices, we would have just taken a photo then and there. My brother and I came home with souvenir shots, reducing our film count by two. It took less than five minutes. Nevertheless, it struck me how gracious Dolphy was about it, because he made those few minutes feel unhurried. Yet still, nobody noticed the yaya behind us.

We see here a picture of a man and a young person-thing obscuring a cartoon giraffe. The young person-thing had hair on his head. He also had tinted glasses for some reason, being a douche in training. He wore tapered stonewashed jeans over his state-of-the-art Converse ERX-200s. He also wore a jacket that he borrowed from his grandfather.

My grandfather happened to be one of Dolphy’s biggest fans. While he was recovering from a stroke, we would watch Dolphy films on Betamax, thanks to RVQ library copies that Dolphy’s eldest lent us. I enjoyed those times. My favorite Dolphy gag had him driving a hearse (very slooowly) while his clueless mother-in-law gabbed about in the passenger seat. It still kills me just thinking about it, especially when they tried to change the music, finding only two songs to choose from and both crackly dirges.

My grandfather is now gone. Betamax, likewise. My stretchy pants and indoor shades are gone too, thankfully. As for the photobombing yaya – who knows? She could still be there in Ocean Terminal. I know that the Toys R Us store is still there. It was my favorite place in the world growing up. The last time I visited, I felt as if it became smaller somehow. It was evidently reformatted, although it could also just have been my mind playing tricks on me. We tend to remember things from the past as if they were all bigger, after all. When these things go, as they tend to do, we certainly feel diminished for it. As the world mourns Dolphy’s passing today, this has never rang truer. He was a source of happiness for generations, as it had been for my family.

Rest in peace, good sir. Thanks for the laughter.

Categories: [nostalgia]

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